Kailene Pillay, The Witness
2 minute read
15 Sep 2016
09:34

Environmentalists vow to fight

Kailene Pillay, The Witness

A consultant has given a provisional thumbs-up for gas exploration in the Midlands, but local conservation organisations say they will continue to fight tooth and nail against it.

A consultant has given a provisional thumbs-up for gas exploration in the Midlands, but local conservation organisations say they will continue to fight tooth and nail against it.

Environmental consulting firm SLR Consulting released a report this week recommending that exploration for gas and oil take place, in spite of widespread public opposition.

Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration lodged an exploration application early last year covering 1 500 000ha of the province and nearly 10 000 farms.

The application includes that the company be allowed to explore for products such as oil, gas, condensate, coal bed methane, helium and biogenic gas.

Although Rhino Oil and Gas said they intend to focus purely on an aerial survey method of exploration, which includes grid-based flights using a light fixed-wing aircraft, environmentalists say they will oppose the proposal.

Rhino may have excluded ground-based core hole drilling from their proposal, but groundWork’s director Bobby Peek said he has no doubt that exploration will eventually lead to drilling and fracking. “Our stance on this is very clear in that we do not agree on any exploration, let alone exploitation of any fossil fuel,” Peek said.

He said although the proposal is for a non-invasive method of searching for gas and oil, “KwaZulu-Natal has many other alternatives to access energy”.

“This will impact our water supply and condition, people’s health and the economy,” Peek said.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) head of policy and futures unit Saliem Fakir echoed Peek’s sentiments, saying, “This application is quite miscalculated and needs to be opposed”.

Fakir said the environmental risk will eventually escalate when exploration goes into a “more intrusive” stage.

SLR environmental consultants said it was evident that the majority of opposition was against the environmental and social risks of fracking, if viable oil and gas reserves were found.

“It is further perceived that this could lead to widespread impacts on water and land, causing devastation to livelihoods.

“The perception is informed by the widely publicised negative impacts of hydraulic fracturing and the decisions taken by many governing bodies around the world to suspend such activities,” the consultants said in their recent published report.

The 30-day public comment period started this week and will end on October 14. People are urged to comment on the proposal.

The report states that although the early-phase exploration may have a significantly low impact, the fear was that granting of the exploration will set in motion a more extensive extraction process.

“The related concern is that once an exploration right is granted, it will be nearly impossible to stop the process later,” the report read.

To view the report and comment, go to www.ccaenvironmental.co.za